I agree with Tim’s plan to bring Grayling to ac­count

Yorkshire Post - - OPINION -

“I AGREE with Nick” was the fa­mil­iar re­frain dur­ing the 2010 elec­tion when David Cameron and Gor­don Brown si­dled up to Nick Clegg, the then Lib Dem leader, in the TV de­bate.

This week it’s a case of “I agree with Tim” and the at­tempt by Tim Far­ron, Mr Clegg’s suc­ces­sor, to change the law to make clear that the Trans­port Sec­re­tary is re­spon­si­ble for the rail­way.

Now a back­bench MP, Mr Far­ron’s ru­ral Lake Dis­trict con­stituency was amongst those worst-hit by the sum­mer of timetable chaos on the re­gion’s rail­ways and the rep­u­ta­tional dam­age to tourism as the North’s econ­omy took an es­ti­mated £38m hit.

How­ever, af­ter the Of­fice of Rail and Road’s in­quiry re­vealed a com­plete lack of ac­count­abil­ity, his Bill – pre­sented to the House of Com­mons this week – would mean Chris Grayling could no longer shy away from the con­se­quences of his depart­ment’s de­ci­sions.

It speaks vol­umes that this needs clar­i­fi­ca­tion. But it would, says Mr Far­ron, also make it sig­nif­i­cantly eas­ier for the Gov­ern­ment to strip fail­ing rail op­er­a­tors – take note North­ern and Tran­sPen­nine Ex­press – of their fran­chises.

Know­ing how slow Par­lia­ment op­er­ates at the best of times – and that’s slower than many trains here – I’m guess­ing there’s lit­tle chance of Mr Far­ron’s mo­tion mak­ing any progress un­less there’s a cross-party con­sen­sus.

Yet there should be. For, given how Mr Grayling’s ab­di­ca­tion of re­spon­si­bil­ity has failed the Gov­ern­ment, the coun­try and com­muters, ev­ery MP should be sup­port­ing a sim­ple mea­sure that are 10 times more likely to visit schools in Lon­don and the South East than the North, it shows – once again – that the Gov­ern­ment is still hope­lessly out of touch when it comes to this re­gion.

I can only as­sume that the Min­is­ter is too em­bar­rassed to ad­mit that Lon­don did, in fact, re­ceive favourable fund­ing when its ed­u­ca­tion stan­dards were un­ac­cept­able – and that he’s not pre­pared to do like­wise for the North.

It’s a false econ­omy. The sooner Min­is­ters take off their Brexit blink­ers and view skills and train­ing as an in­vest­ment in the na­tion’s fu­ture, the sooner the North-South eco­nomic di­vide can be nar­rowed – for the ben­e­fit of all.

TALK­ING OF the North-South di­vide, I need to go back to school af­ter last week’s crit­i­cism about the cost of re­cruit­ing three HS2 non-ex­ec­u­tive direc­tors. Cost­ing £950 a day, and work­ing just two days a month, their an­nual bill will come to a com­bined £68,400. Yet there should still be an ex­pla­na­tion as to why HS2 spurs to Leeds and Manch­ester should take prece­dence over a new high-speed line across the Pen­nines.

FOR­MER MP Austin Mitchell is scathing of most prime min­is­ters and party lead­ers in his thor­oughly read­able and, at times, provoca­tive mem­oir

He does spare Harold Wil­son – and not be­cause he was a York­shire­man. It’s be­cause he “made party unity cen­tral to his lead­er­ship”.

Yet there’s a soft spot for one Mar­garet Thatcher. “She even read my let­ters telling her how to run the coun­try and wrote back gra­ciously ex­plain­ing to me how wrong I was,” writes the for­mer Grimsby MP. “No other Prime Min­is­ter ever did that.”

Per­haps Theresa May, whose of­fice has a dis­mal rep­u­ta­tion when it comes to cor­re­spon­dence, should try it. It might force the PM to think through her ar­gu­ments so she’s bet­ter able to ar­tic­u­late them. It might work. It might not. If only Mrs T had lis­tened to her crit­ics when it came to the poll tax...

NORTH­ERN IRE­LAND’S Demo­cratic Union­ists have 10 MPs. They and Sinn Fein have been re­fus­ing to work to­gether at Stor­mont since power-shar­ing col­lapsed over a scan­dal in­volv­ing DUP leader Ar­lene Fos­ter and green en­ergy pol­icy. Yet, even though Ms Fos­ter is not a MP, she can hold the UK to ran­som over Brexit and now the Bud­get. She ap­pears will­ing to bring down the Gov­ern­ment. It can’t be right that she ef­fec­tively has more power than Theresa May, can it?

I PAR­TIC­U­LARLY like the story in Kevin Kee­gan’s mem­oir about his child­hood in Don­caster – and how his younger brother Mike’s pushchair was in­vari­ably used as a goal­post. It was fine un­til he was “flushed straight in the face with a stray shot”.

Those were the days when young­sters could walk a mile and a half to the lo­cal park in safety. Yet, as Kee­gan says, he wouldn’t have be­come such a great foot­baller if it wasn’t for his hum­ble up­bring­ing. A must read.

I CAN’T de­cide who is be­com­ing the more te­dious – Boris John­son or Jose Mour­inho? Dis­cuss.

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